The iconographical programme composed by the subdeacon Ariberto da Intimiano for the basilica of San Vincenzo in Galliano around 1007 can be placed in the context of a general renewal of the basilica, and enables us to reconstruct several cultural references of the ambitious young prelate, in particular, to the early Christian and Byzantine world reread through Ottonian pictorial culture.
Ariberto’s figurative world was that of the high clergy in Milan, linked to the Episcopal milieu, as is demonstrated by some relationships between the Galliano frescoes and contemporary miniatures in the Breviary of Arnolfo II: it is clear that models common to other wall paintings in the Lombard territory were used (for example Barzanò and
Bizzozero). The main group of painters active in the apse in Galliano can also be
identified in the Baptistery in Novara, and probably includes artists at work in other decorative cycles commissioned by bishops, like the apse of San Fedelino in Novate Mezzola, the old inner façade wall of Sant’Ambrogio Vecchio in Prugiasco, the sacellum of San Satiro in Milan, and perhaps in other churches included in the areas acquired by the Ambrosian episcopate between the end of the tenth and the beginning
of the eleventh century. Since the pictorial decoration of the old cathedrals in Milan has been lost, the surviving fragments in the basilica of Sant’Ambrogio take on
special importance, where it seems that some of the formal solutions then adopted in Galliano came to maturity, but refreshed by a new expressive power that finds further impulses in the recovery of Carolingian figurative culture.
At Galliano, the location of the scenes from the life of the saint recall an analogous situation in Müstair, in a Roman type of upgrading of the apse as an early Christian memoria, in which the relics of the saints were recalled by the narration in the painting. In this sense, the profundity of the inscription dictated by Ariberto is significant, as it celebrates painting as a means of knowledge and «maiden who adorns the house of
the Lord by bestowing beauty».
Since information on painting workshops of the eleventh century is scarce, the reading of some details of style and execution can provide precious clues. From the analysis of the apse paintings in Galliano, a variety of languages and techniques emerges, which goes from the flesh tones to the application of the final highlights in white: hence it seems
that the so-called ‘Master of the Apse’ was not a single fresco painter, but a team characterised by different styles but managing to obtain final coherent, balanced results.
Another point that emerges is the articulated planning of the work: the different personalities seem to work side by side with an almost chaotic nonchalance made possible by the application of small patches of plaster in the pontate.
All of these observations can also be made for the paintings in the nave, starting with the Scenes from the Life of St. Christopher, which critics have always isolated as the work of an easily identified fresco painter: instead, in the rendering of anatomical details, different typologies are also revealed here. They are hard to attribute to a single personality, and also find correspondences in other areas of the nave and in the apse,
although never with the same quality of execution. With the exception of the Genesis cycle, perhaps, the only one with special characteristics that are close to the apse paintings, we can hypothesize the simultaneous presence of different personalities working on more than one cycle and probably on both walls.
In 1582 Charles Borromeo, archbishop of Milan, moved the chapter house of the canons of Galliano from the basilica of San Vincenzo – too far on the outskirts with respect to the city centre – to the church of San Paolo, in the heart of the fortified village of Cantù.
The decline of the basilica of San Vincenzo – already recorded in the seventeenth century in the acts of the pastoral visit of Federico Borromeo (1616) and in the eighteenth century in the tracts of the erudite Dominican Giuseppe Allegranza (1781) – reached its height in 1801 with its deconsecration and sale to private citizens. The church was transformed into a farmhouse and warehouse for farm equipment, with the destruction of the right aisle, the demolition of the atrium and the bell tower, the outer walls’ being tampered with and serious damage to the ambo. The wall paintings, one of the highest level examples of painting in Europe at the beginning of the eleventh century
commissioned by Ariberto da Intimiano, custos of the basilica and future bishop of Milan, were also extensively damaged. The rebirth of the complex, stimulated at the beginning of the twentieth century by Pietro Toesca, began in 1909 with its acquisition on the part
of the city of Cantù. The important architectural restoration work carried out by Ambrogio Annoni in two phases (1912-1913 and 1932-1934) was followed in the course of the twentieth century by different restoration campaigns on the wall paintings entrusted to Mauro Pellicioli and Ottemi Della Rotta. The last campaign was the work of Pinin Brambilla Barcilon (1986-1996/97).
For over a century the basilica complex of Galliano has been subject to
numerous restoration and maintenance interventions. In particular, in the 1930s and 1950s, the frescoes in the apse and triumphal arch have undergone two restoration campaigns by Mauro Pellicioli. However, in the 1980s, serious problems with the adherence of the plaster and deterioration of the painted surfaces due to humidity have
made another campaign necessary for the fixing and cleaning of thesurfaces.
The work has turned out to be an invaluable opportunity to closely study the procedures used in the frescoes.
The author presents the results of a study on the colour of the frescoes that adorn the apse, the walls of the central nave, the crypt and the baptistery of the basilica of San Vincenzo in Galliano.
The analyses, carried out during the restoration work of the 1980s, have made it possible to identify the composition and the structure of the layers of paint, and they have also shown that the way of painting, while evolving over several periods, concords with the instructions in the treatises of Theophilus and Cennino Cennini.
The older paintings in the apse and ambo are characterized by the use of hematite and precious lapis lazuli blue; in the later frescoes, instead, the painting material used is not as precious, and the pigments are limited to azurite, ochre and earth pigments. Moreover, on the wall at the end of the crypt, there is a compact stratum of calcium carbonate and gesso between the plaster and the colour.
Both the ‘Lombard’ and ‘Ottonian’ problems – which have long been present in historiography in relation to various episodes in Roman painting between the end of the ninth and the early eleventh century – can fined new stimuli for reflection thanks to the analysis of a painting once considered lost, but recently identified by the present writer in the Roman basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. The composition includes two Seraphims and the archangels Michael and Gabriel, flanked by the inscriptions Peticio and Deprecatio (from Psalm 119), iconography which is also present in the theophany-vision in the apse in Galliano and which was later used rather frequently in Catalan wall painting. This comparison suggests iconographical and stylistic links between some Roman artistic episodes and the artistic and cultural milieu from which the prodigious Master of Galliano emerged. The pictorial procedures in the fresco in San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura are related to the decoration in the apse of Santa Maria in Pallara on the Palatine (ca. 999) and the apsidiole located in the so-called Temple of Romulus that looks out onto the Sacred Way (turn of the tenth to the eleventh century). Both paintings show an extremely fluid manner of painting that is enriched by the extensive use of a secco finishing and by highly sophisticated chromatic effects. With respect to this pictorial evidence, the fresco in San Lorenzo seems to belong to a later chronological phase (the first decades of the eleventh century) that was nevertheless in a line of continuity with this evidence. Several iconographical and compositional comparisons, like the motif of the perspectival meander with small figures, the physiognomies of the faces, the treatment of the drapery, the great yellow-gold nimbuses, as well as the technique
also make it possible to reach this conclusion. For its iconographical and stylistic content, the fresco in the attic of the oratorio of Sant’Andrea in Celio, datable to the first quarter of the eleventh century, also shows that it is in direct continuity with painting processes documented in Ottonian and Salic Europe.
The so-called ‘Master of Pedret’ (or better, his circle) needs an in-depth re-reading in light of more recent investigations on the painting technique used and on the historical context that has gone along with the execution of the cycles that have been attributed to him thus far. The hypothesis of a direct filiation from Lombard painting no longer
seems valid: there are, in fact, traces of a genuine local tradition rooted in the monastery of Santa Maria in Ripoll ever since the beginning of the eleventh century, which could explain many problems related to the iconographical programmes of the ‘Master of Pedret’. Besides underlining the close relationships between the Catalogna of Abbot Oliba with Rome and with southern Italy in the first half of the eleventh century, the author examines the impact – around 1100 – of the so-called ‘art of Gregorian reform’, which undoubtedly influenced the style and iconography of Pedret’s circle.
In any event, it seems necessary to abandon the traditional indication, and instead recognize the chronological priority of the paintings in Àneu and Burgal over the rest of the corpus consolidated around the name of the Master of Pedret.
There are very few painting cycles that can be securely dated to around 1000, like the one in San Vincenzo in Galliano. The oldest decorative stratum in the sacellum of San Michele at the church of Santi Nazaro e Celso in Verona is one of these. It was discovered in 1885 – when the twelfth century pictorial decoration that covered it was detached – and enjoyed premature fame because of the painted inscription bearing the
date 996, now preserved in very faint traces. Pietro Toesca personally saw the paintings in the sacellum in Verona and cited them in relation to the cycle in Galliano. After the interest aroused at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century,
critics did not pay much attention to them because of a very complicated conservation history that led to their detachment, in 1963, and storage of over thirty pieces in the store-rooms of the Civic Museums in Verona. The purpose of this contribution is to draw attention to these dated Veronese paintings, and to reconstruct, as far as possible, their artistic physiognomy and original decorative layout. Together with this cycle, the author rapidly considers other evidence in the Veronese milieu dating to the tenth and eleventh century, like the elegant painted drapery in the sanctuary area of the church of Santo
Stefano in Verona and the lost decoration of the sacellum of San Pietro presso Santa Maria in Cisano, on Lake Garda.
In the basilica of San Vincenzo in Galliano, the great fresco of the Madonna and Child with Six Saints documents important pictorial renovation in the second half of the thirteenth century. It can be closely connected with some frescoes in the crypt, in an iconographical programme that, through the distance of past centuries, seems to link
back up with Ariberto’s intentions.
The author also suggests comparisons with other thirteenth century paintings in the parish of Galliano, in particular in the church of Sant’Antonio in Cantù. In the basilica of San Vincenzo, early fourteenth century frescoes on the inside façade wall are also examined, as are those in the crypt. The crypt frescoes can be dated to the end of the
fourteenth/beginning of the fifteenth century, suggesting comparisons with contemporary painting in the Brianza area and in the province of Varese.
The work Ariberto di Intimiano promoted in Galliano can be considered in a more extensive plan for renovation of the parishes of the comitatus Martexane, for which various testimonials survive, including the little known case of the church of Santo Stefano in Vimercate: a building that has come down to us in the form of an architectural palimpsest, the result of the modifications carried out between the fifteenth and
nineteenth centuries on a structure raised between the tenth and twelfth centuries through six separate building campaigns, as is revealed in the stratigraphic analyses of the elevations. As in Galliano, here, too, there must have been a rich body of medieval
wall paintings, of which only a few fragments that can be dated between the eleventh and fourteenth century remain, including the Doctors of the Church frescoed on the vault of the chapel dedicated to St. Ambrose around 1340-50 by a painter from the Milanese milieu. The medieval sculpture is also of great interest, starting with the fragment of an interlace cornice from the Carolingian period walled into the north apsidiole which could be a surviving remnant of the primitive church of Santo Stefano, documented from 745 onwards. A capital in the crypt and a human head with an apotropaic function on the bell tower are contemporary with Romanesque reconstruction, while the Boninian
sculptural group of the Madonna and Child between St. Stephen and a Knight Saint, placed on the façade in 1608, dates to 1350-60. A Boninian matrix emerges in even closer terms in the unpublished marble figure of St. John the Baptist, once on the baptismal font. A date of ca. 1375-85 is put forward for this work.
The author underlines several points for thought on the case of Galliano that have emerged from the most recent research, starting with the close intertwining of our aesthetic perception of the monument, the restoration work that has to some extent given it back to us remodelled and the artistic historiography that has made Galliano an emblematic event in the birth of the Romanesque (as a monument, San Vincenzo became a symbol thanks to scholars like De Dartein, Rivoira, Puig i Cadafalch, Focillon, Toesca and Kingsley Porter).
The traditional interpretation in a philoimperial, Ottonian key was gradually surpassed, and sights were turned on Rome, not only as a spiritual fulcrum, but also as an active centre of diffusion of the figurative models of the Ottonian world. Other consolidated interpretive schemes that have been surpassed include the abandonment of the myth of the itinerant Romanesque artist responsible for the diffusion of new architectural and iconographical models on a European level. Instead, analogies among Romanesque
monuments should be justified on the basis of cultural affinities in the centres of political and religious power where they were commissioned. Ariberto’s world and the Episcopal milieu surrounding him are connected to the figures of other great early eleventh century ecclesiastical dignitaries active in centres like Hildesheim, Cluny and Aquileia.
Lo scopo dell’articolo è un riesame critico degli argomenti che dimostrerebbero la presenza di maestri cosiddetti ‘lombardi’ nel primo romanico catalano. Si suppone che tali costruttori italiani (tradizionalmente collegati agli antichi magistri comacini d’epoca longobarda) abbiano introdotto in Catalogna, agli inizi dell’XI secolo, i fondamenti della nuova architettura romanica, esportando le risorse e le conoscenze tecnologiche già
sviluppate in patria. Di fatto, né le affinità tra l’architettura catalana e quella lombarda dell’XI secolo né le fonti documentarie possono realmente provare l’arrivo in Catalogna
di queste maestranze italiane. Nei documenti catalani troviamo sì citati alcuni ‘lombardi’, ma solo perché il termine lombard con le sue varianti faceva parte degli antroponimi catalani già prima del IX secolo. D’altra parte è vero che, in alcuni territori catalani, dalla terza metà del XII secolo il termine lambard divenne un sinonimo per muratore o costruttore. Di solito questa circostanza è stata considerata dagli studiosi come una
conseguenza del successo e della fama acquisita dagli antichi maestri nord-italiani. Ma dato che tale trasformazione semantica ebbe luogo solo nel tardo medioevo (più di 150 anni dopo la – supposta – migrazione dei costruttori lombardi), l’autore suggerisce di spiegare questa risignificazione del termine come un risultato dei contatti tra architettura italiana e catalana intervenuti alla metà del XII secolo, e più precisamente all’arrivo
di un architetto (o di una bottega) che lavorò nella cattedrale di Santa Maria della Seu d’Urgell, probabilmente il più ambizioso e monumentale edificio costruito ex novo nel romanico catalano maturo.